THE MEDICAL WOMEN’S FEDERATION AND MWIA
In the Beginning
The Medical Women’s Federation developed from the Association of Registered Medical Women which
was founded in London in 6 May 1879, with 9 members representing the majority of the qualified medical
women in the UK. The first meeting was held 4 May, 1890 at the School of Medicine for Women, 30 Henrietta
Street, London at 2.30pm. Those present were Drs Blackwell, Garrett Anderson, Jex Blake, Aitkins, Barker,
Clarke, Marshall, Chaplin, Ayton, McDonagh and Dunbar:-
Dr Blackwell was unanimously requested to preside. A paper was read by Elizabeth Blackwell on 4 cases of
Obstruction of the Intestines (1)
The meeting was followed by a 3 course dinner which included a choice of potages, a selection of main courses
including Gammon, Omelettes of Crab, Whitebait, Lamb and Beef and desserts including French Patisseries, Ice
cream or Gelic of Marasquin. The bill for the 9 persons present, including 3 Burgundy and 1Champagne, totalled
£8.40. It was proposed that this association would meet annually to read scientific papers and wine and dine at the
Trafalgar Inn. (1)
Other Associations of registered medical women were organised in the Northern, North-Eastern, Yorkshire,
Birmingham and Midlands, Northern Irish and Scottish regions. They were involved in activities similar to those in
which MWF has been involved with over many years but in 1917 these 7 “associations of Medical Women”
recognised that they would be more representative and effective if they joined together in a Federation of Medical
Women, and thus the MWF was founded (1).
Many states in America had associations of medical women at this time and a separate and new national organisation
– the American Women’s National Associations (later to become the American Medical Women’s Association)
was founded in 1915.
The first international conference of women physicians was organised by the Medical and Social Committee
of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) in New York City Autumn, 1919. Women doctors
from sixteen countries attended this 6-week conference where they discussed general health matters.
These participants were invited to attend a dinner in the original Waldorf–Astoria Hotel, on the corner of 5th
Avenue and 33rd Street, New York on 21 October, 1919. This dinner was given by the American Women’s Hospitals,
and the War and Reconstruction Committee of the American Women’s National Association (AWNA) in honour
of the American women doctors of Unit No.1.who had just returned from a year’s service with the American
Women’s Hospital at Luzancy-sur-Marne. One hundred and forty guests of sixteen nationalities attended the
dinner. During the after-dinner speeches it became clear that it was the desire of the doctors who had served together
in France to continue with the comradeship and support they had experienced while working in France.
An after-dinner speaker, Dr Eliza Mosher of the American Women’s Hospital Committee, suggested that the
present gathering of women physicians should seize the opportunity to form a permanent international association
of medical women. This suggestion was strongly supported by Dr Munch of Norway, a participant of the
international conference, who proposed that such a society should be organised. After the speeches Dr Belle
MacDonald (USA) proposed a motion: -
That a Medical Women’s International Association be formed.
The motion was seconded by Dr Emily Barringer of New York City, and passed by acclamation.
At midday on 25th October, 1919, medical women from 15 different countries assembled at the headquarters
of the YWCA, 600, Lexington Avenue, New York City, and elected a committee of twelve. This committee
was given full power to adopt a constitution and to elect officers to serve during the first term of the new association.
A member of this committee was a member of the Japanese Association and Christine Murrell (MWF)
was elected by this committee as a Vice-President of MWIA. Neither the Japanese Association nor MWF
were informed of this new association in America nor invited to join. Letters were sent to many medical
women in Europe and beyond but neither the Indian nor the Japanese Medical Women’s members
attending the conference and dinner in New York reported to their national Associations. MWIA headquarters
were established at 637 Madison Avenue New York City, the residence of Esther Lovejoy
the 1st MWIA President.
Unknown to Esther Lovejoy, the Council of the Medical Women’s Federation meeting in London on 30 th
November, 1920, passed the following resolution :-
That a subcommittee be set up, with power to add to their number, to communicate with medical women
in all countries where groups of medical women exist with a view to convening a meeting of delegates
or representatives to constitute an international organisation of medical women. (1)
Although a circular letter had been sent by Esther Lovejoy to women doctors in many countries throughout the
world after the formation of the Medical Women’s International Association (MWIA) in 1919, no one
communicated directly with the Medical Women’s Federation in Britain. Despite the fact that Christine Murrell, a
member of MWF, was elected by the “committee of twelve” as the first vice-president of the new association she
was not able to give the Medical Women’s Federation information about this international association of medical
women organised in 1919. She was very enthusiastic, however, about the new international association and agreed
to be a member of the MWF’s International Subcommittee which was set up to consider the formation of an
international association of medical women (2)
The first meeting of the International Subcommittee of MWF was held on 6th December, 1920 at 122, Harley
Street, London, the office of Dr Jane Walker, the first President of MWF and chairwoman of this MWF
subcommittee. Also present at this meeting were Christine Murrell and May Dickson Berry (Honorary Secretary)
and other six MWF members. Drs Louisa Martindale and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson were co-opted to the
This subcommittee was made aware that a newly formed association of international medical women had been
organised in America but very little was know about it and it was considered an American organisation. The
MWF was not invited to join nor did they receive the circular letter sent on behalf of the new association by Dr
Marie Chard, New York City, to women doctors in many countries throughout the world. This letter gave a brief
history of the birth of the new association and the names of the elected committee of twelve who were empowered
to elect officers and draw up a provisional constitution of the Medical Women’s International Association. It also
invited medical women to pay a fee to join. (3)
The MWF International subcommittee at its first meeting recommended that an international meeting should be
convened in London or wherever convenient in 1921. Representatives of women doctors from countries
worldwide would be invited to attend this meeting and Esther Lovejoy would be contacted.
The following letter was signed and sent by Jane Walker and the two honorary secretaries, to Esther Lovejoy on
22nd December 1920.
Dear Dr Lovejoy
The MWF in Great Britain has been approached from various sources and urged to call a conference of foreign
women doctors with a view to founding an International Association of Medical Women. This body when fully
constituted, representative and truly international will become eligible for representation on bodies connected with
the League of Nations and it will be a very important organisation. For this purpose, it will be necessary for the
women doctors in each country to send representatives as far as possible from their whole number. We hope that
these, when duly elected will come to London, or, to some other place found more convenient, to discuss and draw up
a Scheme of Association.
With this end in view, our Sub-Committee, has instructed us to write first to you, one of the originators of the
provisional body formed to initiate this movement, and to carry on until some wider scheme was evolved. We
shall be glad to know your views on the proposal and we should also be grateful if you would be so good as to
give us the names of any groups or societies of American medical women who should be invited to send delegates.
We understand that your association already encouraged medical women of other European countries to
establish national medical organisations whom we much hope will co-operate.
We feel strongly the urgent necessity for some intimate co-operation between the medical women of
different countries and we rejoice to know that you have already taken the first steps in this direction
We are, dear Dr Lovejoy. Yours cordially (2)
It was not surprising that Esher Lovejoy was very concerned to hear that there were plans within Europe to
organise another medical women’s international association. Indeed she was very resistant at first to the proposals
from MWF. In a letter sent to Jane Walker on 5th January. 1921, in which she enclosed copies of the constitution
and membership, she made the following comments:-
1 .We are very glad indeed to learn that the Medical Women’s Federation of Great Britain has been
approached in this connection and agree with you absolutely regarding the urgent necessity of intimate co-
operation between the medical women of different countries
2 .In organising the Medical Women’s International Association the general plan of the
International Society of Surgeons was followed
3. Every part of the United States is represented in our membership
4. Encouraging reports have been received from France and it is the privilege of the
American section to render some small assistance towards the establishment of an
5. Among the membership of the International are medical missionaries in China and
India, new members from Canada and Japan and Contributing Members (Life fee $100
Annual $10) have also been accepted.
6 .The formation of another Medical Women’s Society would in our opinion be fatal to the whole movement.
It would inevitably result in general dissatisfaction among medical women all over the United States and in
different parts of the world who have paid their initiation fees and are accredited members.
7. It will be a long time before this body or any other body of medical women can be fully constituted,
representative and truly international (2)
Esther Lovejoy explained that, in the United States, there was a national society of 800 medical women and in
every state and large city there were local societies of medical women not in any way identified with the national
society. Medical women in the States were engaged in private practice and others employed in public health in the
city, state or federal departments of health. She did not feel that it would be possible to unite those in a truly
representative manner. Her great hope for the future was to have a fully constituted, representative and truly
international society, built on the foundation already established. The existence of two international societies of
medical women was unthinkable. (1)
She had already corresponded with the Executive Board of the Medical Women’s International
Association for a vote regarding the time and place of next meeting and hoped that the medical women
of Great Britain would co-operate. (2)
Prior to receiving the letter from Esther Lovejoy, Christine Murrell informed the MWF Sub-Committee that she
had heard from Dr Thullier-Landry, of France; -
That the French medical women were strongly of the opinion that, as an essential preliminary to joining an
international body, they should form a national association. This was the original idea of the proposers – that it
should be a federation of national bodies (3). This idea was given up, as many countries did not have national
associations and the numbers of their medical women were too few. The French women intended to propose that
membership should be open both to national associations and to individuals. (3)
Christine Murrell was able to inform the MWF secretary that a representative of the American members of the
International Association, Dr Thelberg, was in Europe attending a meeting of the National Council of Women.
She had visited medical women in Europe at the request of Esther Lovejoy. She had now arrived in London with a
proposal that the first meeting of the International Association should be held in London in 1922 (3) Dr Thelberg
was invited to come to the offices of MWF where she explained that she felt the position was difficult:-
She admitted that the formation of the International Association had been altogether irregular, since it had been
done without consulting existing associations of medical women either in Great Britain or America (3). (There
were already, unknown to the Americans, also strong associations in India and Japan).
She asked if MWF would be prepared to invite the International Association to hold its first meeting in London in
1922. American members and also European members of the International Association made this request to Dr
Thelberg in America and during her visit to France. She hoped that the:-
Irregularities referred to would not be an insuperable difficulty to the meeting in London. (3)
Following Dr Thelberg’s return to America, Esther Lovejoy sent a second letter to Jane Walker. She had heard
from Dr Thelberg that, in her opinion, the MWF was the best organised medical women’s association in the
world. She repeated her concern regarding the formation of another international association but felt that all were
seeking the same thing.
On 7th February, 1921, the MWF held the second meeting of their International Sub-Committee where Esther
Lovejoy’s two letters were discussed. There was criticism of her first letter (5th January, 1921) but some positive
suggestions were sent in reply. MWF agreed to hold a preliminary meeting in Geneva in 1921, since this country
was accessible and neutral, and also agreed that London should be the venue of a meeting in 1923.
MWF still refused to give way on “membership” repeating in the letter that they considered that only medical
societies not individual members should constitute the membership:-
The Sub-Committee was unanimous in thinking that the only way the medical women of this country would join in
an international council or association is as a federation – as societies and not as individuals. The main idea
which prompted the members of our Sub-Committee in wishing to take part in this work is to see a medical
women’s international association formed which will be directly representative of the medical women’s
organisations in the constituent countries and provide a body which will be officially consulted on questions of
international medicine and hygiene and could send delegates to sit on international boards such as those
organised by the League of Nations. Where there is no medical women’s organisation in a country, the
opportunity of representation on such an important body would much facilitate the formation of such a national
The closing paragraph of this letter emphasised the intent of MWF in this matter;
Our Sub-Committee has instructed us to write to you in this sense, in the hope that you, and your Executive will
see your way to developing your association in this direction Should this be so, they would be very willing to co-
operate and to send representatives to the 1921 meeting. (3)
Several letters in a similar vein passed between these two indomitable women doctors, Esther Lovejoy and Jane
Walker, for a number of months. Both expressed a wish to have one association but Esther Lovejoy expressed
concern at the suggestion that the 1919 Constitution of the Medical Women’s International Association should be
changed without calling a meeting of members. She repeated several times over that she felt responsible to the
two hundred American women doctors and others who had paid joining fees of $4 and Life Membership of $100
to become members of the Medical Women’s International Association. Neither would she agree to
representatives from the American Women’s National Association attending the planned meeting organized by
MWF in Switzerland as this again would be a discourtesy to the American members who had identified
themselves with this movement and paid annual and life membership fees to the International Association. She
informed MWF that there was no way the constitution of the Medical Women’s International Association could
be altered before a general meeting in Europe in 1921.
Members of the Board of MWIA and the corresponding members in various countries had been contacted by
Esther Lovejoy regarding the time and date of the next meeting of MWIA. The majority voted for 1922 as the
International Suffrage Alliance was meeting in Europe in May or June. As she hoped to stand for the United
States Congress Dr Lovejoy would find it difficult to attend a meeting in 1922. She was, however, interested in
the suggestion from MWF that a representative international body could be consulted in matters of international
health and hygiene, and that MWF might be able to send delegates to sit on international bodies. The possibility
of working to federate the many large associations of women doctors in America with the American Medical
Women’s National Association also appealed to her as this would make for solidarity (3)
Jane Walker was also adamant that MWF would not participate in the meeting in 1922 unless
representatives of women doctors from their country were sent to discuss the formation of an international
association. MWF had also consulted the League of Nations and they confirmed that only organisations were
consulted and asked to send representatives to international bodies not individuals. She gave Esther Lovejoy two
a) A that your association reconstituted should become the new organisation
b) That a separate representative body should be formed by the various medical women’s associations which
would doubtless collaborate with your association (3)
The battle of words eventually came to an end with Esther Lovejoy and Kate Mead accepting an invitation from
MWF (having received the approval of the Board of MWIA) to attend a small conference in London in the
Autumn of 1921 to arrange a meeting in Geneva in 1922 (3)
(1) Wellcome Contemporary Medical Archives Centre, London SA/MWF
(2) Wellcome Contemporary Medical Archives Centre, London. SA/MWF/K.1
(3) Wellcome Contemporary Medical Archives Centre, London, SA/MWF/KJ/
In May 1921 the MWF International Sub-Committee received from MWF Council a resolution which
they sent to Esther Lovejoy and members of MWIA:
The MWF International Sub-Committee adheres to the principals enunciated by the Council of the Medical
Women’s Federation of May 16th.While it desires an alliance between existing medical women’s
associations of different countries, it is of the opinion that it would not be in the interests of international
friendship to start another medical women’s international association on this basis in view of the already
existing “Medical Women’s International Association” started in America, therefore it welcomes the
assurance that the constitution of the present Medical Women’s International Association is tentative and
capable of revision (1).
MWF suggested that the International Sub-Committee should arrange a preliminary and quite informal
conference in London in the Autumn between Esther Lovejoy, Kate Mead and members of the
International Sub-Committee and that the proposed Geneva Conference should be postponed.
On September 17th, 1921, Dr Esther Lovejoy and Dr Kate Mead met with the MWF International
Sub-committee at 122 Harley Street, London, for an informal conference. Dr Walker presided and 7 MWF
members were present.
At this conference both Esther Lovejoy and Kate Mead:-
Expressed a keen desire to see a satisfactory medical women’s international association formed
and to co-operate with the British MWF in this task. They believed that the constitution of the
existing Medical Women’s International Association might be altered so as to meet the wishes
already expressed by the Sub-Committee of the MWF for a representative association as opposed
to one consisting of individuals (1).
Esther Lovejoy had no definite plan and considered that the whole thing should first be discussed
at the next meeting of MWIA. She had little doubt that a satisfactory solution would be found.
Doubts, however, were expressed by members of the MWF Sub-Committee as to whether
modification of the existing constitution of the existing society might only be an attempt to unite
two incompatible ideas. Dr Berry, one of the two Honorary Secretaries of the Sub-Committee,
thought that it was fundamental that the new body should be an association of corporate bodies and
not of individuals:-
Members of the new body should be national representatives and not individuals. (1)
These proposals were discussed but not put to the meeting for a vote. Drs Lovejoy and Mead
gave information about the various associations of medical women in America and how their
representation might be affected. The meeting decided that this was a matter for the American
women doctors themselves to discuss.
Finally Dr Lovejoy suggested that the proposed 2nd conference of MWIA would be pleased to
have the views of MWF and would welcome any representatives who attended this meeting.
After further discussion the following motion was proposed by Dr Chisholm (MWF) and seconded by Dr Boyle
That understanding that the Medical Women’s International Association is proposing to meet in 1922 and will
consider its tentative constitution (art 10 of the constitution of the Medical Women’s International Association)
the Council of the Medical Women’s Federation of Great Britain requests them to receive a deputation to lay
before them a scheme as to international Organisation. (1).
The meeting ended with an expression of appreciation of the cordial way in which Dr Lovejoy and Dr Mead had
shown their willingness to attend and co-operate with their British colleagues. All agreed that the objects of the
international association were to promote the general interests of medical women throughout the world and for
medical women to co-operate in all matters connected with international health (1).
The MWF Sub-Committee continued to meet and prepare an “Outline of Scheme of International Organisation of
Medical Women” to be presented at the second meeting of MWIA in Geneva, 17th September, 1922.
(1) Wellcome Contemporary Medical Archives, London SA/MWF/K
MWIA meets in Geneva
MWIA met in Geneva in 1924. 90 women doctors attended from 14 countries. Only 2 countries – Great Britain &
the USA - sent 5 official representatives. There were scientific and business meetings as well as social events and
the latter proved to be of great value to provide a better understanding among the representatives from the various
Each day they saw more clearly and recognised each others good points, grasping each other’s problems and
difficulties- this was hardly believed possible at the outset (1)
On the first day a committee was formed to revise the MWIA constitution. Jane Walker was chosen as chairman
and members from 11 countries were elected to the committee. All the countries present (except Russia) had
received “the outline of the Scheme of International Organisation of Medical Women” from MWF. It was “Quite
a bombshell” when presented and aroused great opposition but on the second day after there was more to discuss
and after some compromise the Articles were accepted by the committee and ratified by the meeting at Geneva
and the By-Laws presented would be ratified after some revision Esther Lovejoy continued as President and new
officers and corresponding members were elected
The 5 representatives from MWF invited all the representatives to a tea party and the French entertained everyone
in their villa in Geneva. There was also a banquet with rousing speeches.
1) Wellcome Contemporary Archives SA/MWF/C136
The following outlines MWF’s contribution to MWIA including Congresses, Officers etc
The 3rd MWIA General Conference was held in the Royal Society of Medicine, London, July, 1924.
MWF set up a Hospitality Committee – Chairman, J Walker and 33 MWF members. Extensive plans were made
to entertain 220 participants. Each committee member provided personal hospitality and daily transport. This
general meeting of MWIA was later referred to as the 1st MWIA Congress – under new constitution
The MWF International Subcommittee was responsible for the scientific programme-“Maternal Morbidity” and
“The Health of Child Bearing Women”
Jane Walker and her Committee completed the Constitution which was adopted.
Australia, New Zealand, India and Austria affiliated.
Elections – President, Lady [Florence] Barrett; Treasurer Jane Walker; Hon Secretary Louisa Martindale -
(all MWF members)
Visits to hospitals in Bath, Brighton, Nayland (T.B. Sanatorium) and London
Lunch parties at the London School of Medicine, Botanical Gardens, London Association and other
MWF provincial associations
Tea Parties - Ramsay MacDonald, P.M. at 10 Downing Street; the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace;
MPs and the Prime Minister on the Terrace of the House of Commons; the Royal Free; the Hall of Apothecaries;
Hampton Court Palace
Dinner Parties at homes of Lady Barrett; Lady [Sybil] Smith; Members Hospitality Committee
MWF Annual Dinner at Trocadero – all overseas participants were invited as guests of MWF together with
government officials, distinguished scientists, and MPs – 320 guests
Social Programme continued for overseas guests in South of England by MWF members, Lord Mayor of Bath
and they were also invited to attend the BMA Annual Meeting at Bradford
The overseas guests who:-
Felt quite fatigued with the energy displayed by their British hostesses, not only on account of their
generous hospitality, but the fact that many continued with their daily professional duties during the
conference - Lady Barrett performed a Caesarean section prior to chairing a meeting of MWIA Council –
Louisa Martindale undertook a major surgical procedure before chairing a scientific session – Christine
Murrell consulted in her rooms before attending the meetings.
MWIA Secretariat was at 28 Weymouth Street, London, 1924-29
Ref. Lovejoy and Reid Historical Sketch: Wellcome Contemporary Medical Archives SA/MWF/ 135,136,137.
2nd MWIA Congress Paris, 1929 Madame [Marie] Curie received Honorary Membership; Lady Barrett VP;
UK (and USA) women doctors accused of FGM – denied by MWF members.
3rd MWIA Congress, Sweden, 1934 Recommended that the National Corresponding Secretary should be a
Council Member of National Association
Elections Louisa Martindale elected Treasurer
4TH MWIA Congress, Edinburgh, July 1937
Special occasion- A Scottish Queen consort to George V1- Edinburgh still post coronation mood
Reception by the Lord Provost – Councillors in scarlet robes – Bagpipes – Kilted dancers
Queen Elizabeth patron of this Congress - 250 women doctors from 16 countries
Inaugural Ceremony in the McEwan Hall (University) attended by 87 guests on platform including the Vice-
Chancellor of the University, the President of the GMC, Soroptomists, BMA, Department of Health - many in
Scientific Topic - Cancer in Women and its Prevention and Maternal Morbidity and Abortion
Hospital Visits - Elsie Ingles Hospital and Sick Children’s Hospital
En route to Scotland MWF arranged visits to Elisabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, Royal Free
Hospital and South London Hospital for Women.
Social Programme - Reception by 4 Scottish associations in Royal Scottish Academy; reception by
MWF in Women’s Student Union; theatre visit; Church Service St Giles Cathedral; tours of Edinburgh &
Linlithgow Palace; hospitality in Scottish doctors’ homes and tours in Scotland
Elections President, Louisa Martindale UK, Treasurer, Doris Odlum, UK.
Invitations for 1939 - Hungary, Romania and USA. Hungary chosen but war intervened
Ref. Wellcome Contemporary Medical Archives Centre SA/MWF/K8, K12
EXISTING THROUGH THE 1939-45 WAR
MWIA remained in continual existence throughout the war under the Presidency of Louisa Martindale who
continued to organise MWIA together with Treasurer, Doris Odlum and Janet Aitken, and communicated with
USA, neutral countries such as Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the British colonies. The MWIA Archives
were hidden in a safe place in France by the MWIA Secretariat in 1940 and the MWIA secretariat functioned
from the spare bedroom in Janet Aitken’s London home. There was £300 in the MWIA account in UK and the
British Treasurer decided that no dues would be collected.
Louisa Martindale corresponded with Esther Lovejoy and the members of the American Medical Women
(AMWA) sent at first $300 monthly rising rapidly to $1000 to MWF. They opened a special account “The
American Women’s Hospital Fund” which was used initially to assist women doctors whose cars and surgeries
and hospitals were bombed. And later, with Esther Lovejoy’s approval, the funds were used to support women
and children, refugees from Europe, nurses and others affected by the air raids. The gifts were given in the name
of the American Women’s Hospital Fund and arm bands were worn by those supporting the gifts. These gifts and
“the givers” were reported in the British Press and the Minutes of the Professional and Business Women’s
Association. An Illuminated Address was presented to AMWA by MWF; Janet Aitken paid the cost of this
The Federation of the Medical Women of Canada set up a “British War Relief Fund” and sent regular donations
of money and food, and gave assistance to medical students. One student at the Royal Free, unable to finish her
medical education due to death of father, was supported by the Canadians; two others were given financial
support to qualify; and another young doctor was funded to travel to an internship in Canada. Boxes of Canadian
apples and hams were brought by a ship’s captain for MWF members.
REJUVENATION OF MWIA.
Louisa Martindale contacted the Honorary Secretary in France and all national associations when hostilities
ceased and correspondence was received from 15 national associations, from many members, and even from
China where women were planning to form an association. She also visited several countries in Europe and plans
were made to meet. An Executive Meeting was arranged and chaired by Miss Martindale in London, May, 1946,
and a Council Meeting in the September, 1946 was associated with an Open Meeting where 75 participants met in
the RSM. At the 2 sessions of this open meeting reports were given of the courage and suffering of many
European women doctors in occupied countries, in prison in concentration camps and their heroic efforts to
support and even protect women and children. The MWF provided hospitality to those from overseas and
entertained them in the RSM, Café Royal, at the theatre and in homes The following was a quote from a Swedish
Doctor about these meetings in the MWIA Bulletin December, 1946:-
Foreign delegates at international congresses always have a lot to be grateful for. That is true this time in amplissama
forma. In spite of the cheerful ease with which our hostesses passed over their difficulties we know how big these
difficulties were. We shall never forget what the British Federation and what the President of MWIA did for us in after
war London of September, 1946.”
Prior to these London meetings MWF set up a “Continental Fund” to provide up-to-date medical education for
European doctors. With the help of the British Council, BMA, Universities throughout Britain and MWF members, a
group of 16 Dutch doctors were invited to Britain. All expenses were paid, including pocket money from MWF members,
hospitality from the BMA and home hospitality from MWF members as well as copies of the BMJ, medical education and
new text books
It is important to mention the 5th MWIA Congress held at Amsterdam in 1947 – 9 years after the Congress in
Edinburgh - when all national associations recalled the horrors and heroism of the war years and the effects on
women and children. They discussed “The Responsibilities of Medical Women in the Reconstruction of the Post
War World” Miss Martindale presided and Dr Odlum was re-elected Treasurer
At the 6th Congress in Philadelphia, 1950, Janet Aitken was elected Honorary Secretary and the Secretariat moved
to London. The 1st MWIA pre- and post-congress tour took place. The first stop was London where the group were
entertained by MWF. They visited the Garrett Anderson Hospital and the Obstetric unit at University College
Hospital where Miss Josephine Barnes lectured on pre- and post-natal care in England. There were now 2300 MWF
The 8th Congress was at the Bedford College, London, June, 1958 was opened by Countess Mountbatten.
The Topic was “The Adolescent”
Elections President - Dr Janet Aitken
Hospital visits were made to the Royal Free where medical students served afternoon tea
Social Programme The opening reception at the Senate House, London University was hosted by the Vice
Chancellor. The Chancellor, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, was the chief guest. There was
a reception by the Lord Mayor of London at the Mansion House on the 2nd day and a 3rd reception by the British
Government at the Savoy Hotel. All participants were given a conducted tour of these buildings.
There were excursions to Cambridge, Canterbury, and a cruise on the Thames to Woolwich. The final banquet was
held at the Dorchester Hotel. Janet Aitken entertained 40 National Corresponding Secretaries at her London flat
The 17th Congress was held in Birmingham, August, 1980 following the collapse of the regime in Iran.
MWF had 17 months to prepare for this Congress rather than 4 years. We did it -with a surplus of £33,000!
The Venue was the Metropole Hotel where receptions and meetings were held for 714 participants
The Topic was “Medical Priorities in Developing, Progressing and Established Countries”
The Congress was opened by HRH the Duchess of Gloucester and Sir Henry Yellowlees C.M.O. addressed the
Congress followed by Dr Leila Mehra from WHO Department of Maternal and Child Health, who gave the keynote
address- “Primary Health Care both in Developing and Developed Countries”
Social Programme. Commenced with ecumenical service at Coventry Cathedral. Followed by a reception and
supper by invitation of the British Council. A dinner was given by the Birmingham Council followed by a concert
by the Halle Orchestra. Visits were arranged to Stratford Theatre, a Cruise on the river Avon, and full day
excursions to Eton, Windsor Castle, Stratford and Warwick Castle, Oxford and Blenheim Palace, and the
Wedgwood factory. Prior to the Congress banquet the British Government invited participants to a reception. The
entertainment included Scottish Country Dancing. Beryl Corner presided at this Congress.
A full account is given in the MWIA history of all Congresses, 1924-2007. It details the work of medical women of
the world in realising their responsibilities for the health and wellbeing of their patients, especially the women and
children of the world. MWF has been involved in supporting and helping in many ways to develop MWIA and its
policies over these years.
MWIA is a Non-Government Organisation and is in relation with WHO and UN. There are permanent MWIA
Representatives to these bodies in New York, Geneva and Vienna. They attend important meetings of Committees on
Human Rights, UNESCO, UNICEF, CONGO and other UN bodies. It is a member of the European Women’s Lobby. It is
invited as an observer to WMA and other important International Societies.
MWF MEMBERS WHO WERE ELECTED OFFICERS OF MWIA & CONGRESSES
Presidents Vice- Presidents Treasurers
Lady [Florence] Barrett 1924–29 Dr Christine Murrell 1919-22 Dr Jane Walker !924-29
Miss Louisa Martindale 1937-47 Lady Florence Barrett 1929-34 Miss L Martindale 1934-37
Dr Janet Aitken 1958-62 Dr Doris Odlum 1950-54 Dr D Odlum 1937-50
Dr Beryl Corner 1978-80 Dr Mary Esslemont 1970-72 Dr Mary Crosse 1968-73
Dr Dorothy Ward 1992-95 Miss Catrin Williams 1992-95 Dr. Alexander 1973-74
Honorary Secretaries Honorary Members Secretariat
Miss Louisa Martindale 1924-29 Miss Louisa Martindale 1950 New York 1919-24
Dr Janet Aitken 1950-58 Dr Janet Aitken 1970 London 1924-29
Dr Cicely Williams 1972 Paris 1929-40
Dr Mary Esslemont 1974 London 1940-45
Dr Beryl Corner 1982 Paris 1945-50
Miss Catrin Williams 1995 London 1950-58
Dr Dorothy Ward 1998 Geneva 1958-66
International, Northern European Regional Congresses (NERC) and Council Meetings held in UK
1924 1st Congress London Maternal Morbidity
1937 4 Congress Edinburgh Cancer in Women and its Prevention; Maternal Mortality & Abortion
1946 Council London 1st meeting after war. No scientific meeting arranged
1958 8th Congress London The Adolescent
1975 3 NERC Aviemore Severe Congenital Abnormalities- implications for the Family & Society
1980 17 Congress Birmingham Medical Priorities in Developing, Progressing and Established Countries
1993 10th NERC Brighton Abuse within the Family
2001 13th NERC London Women and Humanitarian Medicine
Many MWIA Executive Meetings and a few Council Meetings were held in London